Browsing "Content creation"
Yesterday I read a recently published online article by a major news outlet about a tragic incident that happened on the Gold Coast in 1990 to a young teenage couple. The man who committed the atrocity against the two was found, charged, convicted and is still in jail. It’s a sad ending to an unnecessary story, but nonetheless, it’s an ending.
Then the question came to mind “Was this article and its content necessary and relevant?” The headline insinuating ‘a monster lurking in the darkness’ was obviously going to intrigue people and make readers click through to the article. Ten sentences in, I was transported into a horror movie with a graphic and disturbing blow-by-blow description of what happened to these two kids and the lack of remorse shown by the man who did it.
But firstly, allow me to digress for a moment . . . . .
Last year I completed a course at QUT where one of the lecturers simplified on how to write content that matters and will positively enhance the readers experience, the rule was ‘So what?’ You have written this content, so what is the reader going to achieve by reading this?
These are some of my own ‘So What’s?’ I wrote down during this course on creating content that mattered:
- Will the reader be informed?
- Will the reader be provoked in their thinking?
- Will the reader be encouraged to change something in their lives for the better?
- Will the reader’s life benefit in any way from this knowledge?
I read through this entire article and blinked away tears as the description left nothing to imagination. I read the article simply to see what possible ending and ‘point’ of rehashing this tragedy would be.
A park had been named in memory of one of the victims many years ago so maybe the ending of this article would be something meaningful such as a foundation set up for one of the victims’ families or charities. Perhaps the point of the article was that the convicted attacker was up for parole and they were petitioning to have him kept in jail? Or maybe this article was written reflecting on how security had since changed on Gold Coast beaches at night time since the incident?
There was nothing new to print. No point. No moving forward. Just re-hashing a terrible thing that happened to some really nice kids and leaving readers in shock with no direction to turn.
In addition to not giving the readers any tools to move forward, the reality was that the victim’s family and friends probably still live on the Gold Coast and undoubtedly replay the nightmare in their heads every day. Now, their personal tragedy is used as Shock Content which served no other purpose than for readers to click through to the article.
The thing that upset me most with this article was the disrespect which was left to the last paragraph of the article when the publication noted that they had contacted the mother of one of the victims. She chose not to comment as it was still too painful and yet the article was published.
Yes, the point of writing an article is for people to read it but as a writer, you have a responsibility to your readers and as a human being, you have a responsibility to the victims (if there were any). You are responsible for choosing content that is relevant, informative and – if appropriate – entertaining.
It’s not fair to kick the wind out of someone and just leave them gasping for air and that goes for writing as well. As a writer you need to take responsibility for your actions and ensure your writing is serving a purpose.
Make Your Words Count. KM.
As a little side project, I have been creating content and managing the social media for the newly published children’s book ‘The Tooth And The Sixpence.” This project is special to me because the book’s author is indeed my wonderful Grandmother, Eillea Mayfield.
Grandma is now 89 and whilst she is a whiz talking on Skype building websites and posting photo’s on Facebook is not really her forte, so I thought I’d help out. Just between you and me, I love doing it for so many reasons but the main being, it’s for family.
Tonight, I was up late, tea in hand and setting the keyboard on fire as I was writing up a bio of Grandma for her books website. It was challenging condensing 89 years of life into a few paragraphs and keeping it in the theme of the website. What was even more challenging was my urge to start doing even more research on my family and learning more about the incredible journeys and lives of these people I have the privilege of calling my family and ancestors.
I did get a chance to have a look at a few of the branches in the family tree when my Mum let me borrow their copy of The Mayfield Family. This book was compiled by the very dedicated Pat Uppill and spans over a history of thirteen generations of the Mayfield family. Mayfield is my maiden name and one that I was particularly sad to let go on my wedding day but proud to see it continue in strength through amazing individuals like my Grandma who wrote the book and my little sister whom is responsible for getting it published.
Enough of the nostalgic ramblings . . .
Here’s 5 reasons why finding out some family history will make you a better writer:
- Writers need to be able to research – this is good practice.
- It will reconnect you with your family past and present.
- You will gain a better understanding of where your inspiration as a writer comes from.
- It gives you a real life understanding of timelines – this is good for script writing and novels
- You may find a hidden treasure – royalty, celebrity, pioneer – you just never know which influential individual you may be related to.
Make your words count. KM.
I love my job and the diversity it offers me. On a daily basis I can write a website update on childhood obesity, a blog article on Australia’s new immigration laws and a Facebook post giving tips on First Aid practices. Whilst variety is the spice of life, it can also offer a challenge to copywriters who need to become instant ‘experts’ on topics that are very foreign to in their current knowledge base.
So how can you make unfamiliar content familiar? Here’s some tips:
- Accept the challenge: If a client needs someone who is familiar with laser skin-care treatments, accept it. You will be amazed at how quickly you can learn if you set your mind to it.
- Spend time with the client: There is nothing more important than face-to-face content and conversation with your client – even if it is via Skype. This is essential to not only accurately understand their needs for content, but how they actually speak. You’ll very quickly be able to determine if they’re style is casual or articulate and this will give you a clue on what style of writing they will appreciate and relate to.
- Read: See what your clients competition are doing right and what is working for their website and content. Follow social media pages to see what is engaging people in that industry and especially the terminology people use. Some industries feel like they’re speaking a different language, particularly if they’re very specialized in their field. Understand what is out there and how people who are affiliated with that service are talking.
- Research! There is no excuse for poor research. In 2016 we have an unprecedented amount of knowledge literally at our finger tips! The internet not only has an answer for everything but means in which you can contact people and ask for advice through forums and social media groups. You can even try the old fashioned way of actually going out into the industry you’re righting about and having a more hands on approach.
Above all, remember to enjoy and embrace the challenge. It’s a gift to be able to write for a living and knowledge, no matter shape or form is a reward in itself.
Make your words count. KM.
When you see the name Hugh Grant on a movie poster, what immediately comes to mind? I’m guessing probably a romantic comedy. How about downloading a Celine Dion album? Are you expecting R&B or more soulful music?
The same can be said for writing. Writers and authors need to create a certain style of writing so their readers and clients know what to expect. The style of your F. Scott Fitzgerald is a long way away from the style of Helen Fielding and their readers know that.
Focusing on not just your content but your style of writing is just as important as you are building your brand through your words. So how do you make your style of writing your brand?
Write how you talk: Your unique creative personality is the reason you are writing and not studying to be a mechanic (or maybe you’re doing both?!). Think of how you talk to your friends and how they would describe you. A thinker? Life of the party? Compassionate? An ideas person? These attributes are what you need to hone into because they are the real you and the reason people like you. Your personality is your POD – Point Of Difference.
Create a lingo or tagline: Rove McManus finished everyone one of his television shows signing off with “Say Hi to your Mum for me.” This is a fantastic way of creating a personality and creating a brand. Finish everyone of your articles, or even add it on to your email signature – with a sign off, quote, anything that sets you apart from the rest.
Observe: Take some time and check out other copywriters, content creaters, SEO experts etc and try and figure out what their Point Of Difference is and why people would chose them over you. Watch their online interaction and try to pinpoint what their brand is and who their clientele will be. You will learn a lot about your writing by observing others in the industry.
Create your online presence: If you speak with any marketing guru usually their first piece of advice with branding is to keep it consistent. As a writer, this means both visually and content wise, your style needs to be creating a known personality and a ‘brand’ that people want to be affiliated with. Ensure your website and your social media platforms are all delivering the same message and attracting the clients you want to work for. You need to keep your content on all of your online platforms updated and accurate so people can find you.
Write for yourself: As a copywriter your job is to create content for other people’s businesses which is an amazing opportunity to learn so much more about different industries you would otherwise never hear about. When you get busy, your own projects will always get thrown to one side and this is not good for your craft. Creativity thrives on creativity so ensure you are allowing yourself a bit of time each week to work on your own best-seller or blockbuster!
Make your words count. KM.
I read an interview many years ago with Sir Jeffrey Archer and there was one particular revelation that stuck with me. Despite the convenience offered through computers and technology in general, Sir Archer continues to write all of his novels by hand. This has become such an intrinsic part of his writing ritual that he uses a new black ink gel pen every single morning.
Although this process may seem tedious and un-necessary, 150 books later and sales of over 270 million publications world-wide goes to show that there is definitely proof in the pudding when it comes to putting pen to paper.
This proof is reaffirmed to me on a personal level whenever I receive a hand-written letter (yes they do still exist!). My letters are usually written between one of two authors; my darling Nanna who despite being over ninety and suffering from arthritis still manages to hand a birthday card for me every year as well as Christmas cards for the whole family; and my beautifully creative 6-year-old daughter.
My daughter has loved to write before she even knew how and regularly leaves little notes professing her love to me, her daddy, her brother or all three of us. Reading these meaningful words of emotion through her very carefully structured hand-writing on pieces of coloured paper, constantly tugs my heart strings.
So why is handwritten so much better than typed words when it comes to creating content?
It’s personal: The fact that there is such as a profession as a ‘Hand-writing expert’ reinforces that there is so much more to the written word that we see. The style of our writing in addition to the content, gives a personal insight to who we are, how we think and how we see the world.
It’s makes you accountable: Texting, typing – it’s all pretty in-personal but not only that, it’s so easy! Predictive texting, spell check all of these systems that are designed to help us are in fact hindering us and making us very VERY lazy. Grabbing a pen and putting it paper makes us 100% accountable for the content – no blaming technology for a miscommunication.
It’s deliberate: When you are writing as opposed to typing, you are giving your brain a chance to preempt your next thought in a timely fashion. Touch typing demands your brain to be fast-paced and hasty in it’s thought process. Taking the time to actually write will allow your ideas to come at a much more natural and organic pace. In this demanding age of technology and distractions, the best ideas will surface from those who take to the time to appreciate their formation.
Although hand-written communication is a dying art (Exhibit A: declining number of Christmas cards received each year), that little stomach jump I get when I find a hand-written letter on my bedside table or in my letterbox – as opposed to the windowed envelopes – will never fail to excite me. And I really hope that somehow, handwriting will make a comeback.
Make your words count. KM.